Security services in Kazakhstan’s capital recently foiled a major terrorist conspiracy, city mayor Adilbek Dzhaksybekov has claimed.
He gave no details of the alleged terrorist plot beyond that it was thwarted four months ago, or in the summer.
“Anti-terror questions are now coming to the fore,” Dzhaksybekov told a law-enforcement meeting in Astana. “The National Security Committee uncovered, literally four months ago, a major clandestine and well-equipped group which was planning terrorist acts in Astana.”
In recent months city residents have reported no evidence of heightened security in Astana, where security is not particularly tight and residents can stroll freely quite close to government buildings on the Left Bank.
Dzhaksybekov spoke of the need to be vigilant in preventing acts of terrorism following this month’s attacks in Paris.
Kazakhstan has not witnessed any major terrorist attacks. It experienced its first suicide bombing in 2011, and that year and the next year the country saw a series of low-level, mainly botched explosions and attacks on law-enforcement officers in which scores – mostly alleged extremists and members of the security forces - died.
In the most serious incident, seven people were killed when a gunman went on a rampage in the southern city of Taraz in 2011.
The authorities previously said that they had thwarted a major terrorist conspiracy in Astana in 2013.
They alleged that a group of radicals had intended to blow the city’s landmark pyramid sky high and blow up Astana Opera at its opening, which was due to be attended by President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The suspects – who also allegedly planned to attack the HQ of the National Security Committee’s domestic intelligence service (KNB) and murder agents – were later jailed on terrorism charges.
Unlike some of its Central Asian neighbors, Kazakhstan has not generally talked up the terror threat.
Uzbekistan is currently reportedly engaged in a security crackdown in which it has rounded up around 150 suspected extremists; Kyrgyzstan has claimed Islamic State links in a shootout with militants this summer; and Tajikistan has claimed that an alleged uprising in September was inspired by Islamic State.